Swiss legal chief braces for sack in Infantino probe

Updated 22 May 2020

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A Swiss parliamentary commission voted by 13 votes to four to initiate a case against Michael Lauber.  — AFP/File
A Swiss parliamentary commission voted by 13 votes to four to initiate a case against Michael Lauber. — AFP/File

BERN: Swiss lawmakers on Wednesday decided to open proceedings that could see the country’s attorney-general dismissed as part of an investigation into FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

A Swiss parliamentary commission voted by 13 votes to four to initiate a case against Michael Lauber.

It is “due to a well-founded suspicion of serious violation of the duties of office either intentionally or by gross negligence”, explained the president of the commission, Andrea Caroni.

If, at the end of the procedure, the commission finds that the suspicions are confirmed, it will submit a proposal for dismissal to parliament who will decide on the sacking.

Otherwise, the procedure will be closed, the commission said in a statement.

Lauber came out of the building, where Wednesday’s proceedings were held in private, simply declaring: “It went very well”.

According to the report, Lauber, 54, was in charge of matters related to the notorious corruption scandal at FIFA.

However, he ‘violated several duties of office’ by meeting Infantino on three occasions in 2016 and 2017.

“On several occasions, Mr Lauber did not speak the truth, acted unfairly, violated the code of conduct and obstructed the investigation,” argued the monitoring authority.

In addition, the attorney-general “does not see how his actions are problematic and shows a poor understanding of his profession”.

In April, a Swiss newspaper alleged that Infantino was suspected of having intervened with the attorney-general to try to get an investigation dropped.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) launched an investigation in early 2016 about Infantino’s awarding of a television rights contract to an offshore company in his previous role as UEFA’s legal affairs director.

According to the Tribune de Geneve newspaper, Infantino was ‘worried’ about this investigation and wrote to his childhood friend, Rinaldo Arnold, who had become a senior prosecutor in Switzerland’s Haut-Valais region where they grew up.

“I will try to explain to the OAG that it is in my interests that everything should be cleared up as soon as possible, that it be clearly stated that I have nothing to do with this matter,” Infantino wrote in an email cited by the newspaper.

Arnold helped to set up a first meeting between Infantino and Lauber, it was claimed.

FIFA said: “The email referred to in the article was obviously obtained by hacking, which is an illegal and criminal act. Not only did Mr Infantino have no reason to lie in that email, the email never said Mr Infantino wanted to ‘clear his name’.”

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020